If you're sticking to Tokyo, you can get around pretty easily without speaking Japanese. All of the signs at the train stations have the station names romanized, and usually have English signs for the bathroom/entrance/ticket booth/etc, and you can buy tickets at the kiosks in English as well.
- Bring a handkerchief because a lot of public bathrooms do not have a way to dry your hands. Sometimes there's also no soap, so maybe bring a little travel sized thing of hand sanitizer too.
- Wear shoes that are comfortable to walk in, and easy to get off/on quickly. Certain restaurants/stores will ask you to take your shoes off, and you don't want to be awkwardly at the entrance unlacing your big boots, etc.
- Dress in layers. It's going to be really cold outside this time of year, but once you hop on the train you'll encounter things like heated seats! Being from California, I was in a jacket, shirt, turtleneck/sweater, gloves, and a scarf most of the time around December.
Places to go:
- I am going to assume you like anime, so you'll obviously want to go to Akihabara. You can find English tourist maps online for the best shops. I only have a few favorites, like Kotobukiya, because a lot of Akiba is honestly kinda sketch. Lots of porn. Everywhere.
- Ikebukuro is also great. It has a big Animate and other shops, and the Sunshine City area is a lot of fun. Namja Town
is definitely worth seeing. Here
is a big English pdf about it. There's an entire floor of gyoza restaurants where you can get things like cheese gyoza. The food places usually have anime promotions going on with themed desserts and stuff like that. There's also an area that sells every single ice cream flavor you could imagine, including garlic, curry, and beef flavored ice cream. On the way to Sunshine City there are a lot of arcades, too!
- Odaiba is a cool place to go. The life-sized Gundam statue is there! It's very touristy, but there are fun things to do/see, like Sega Joypolis
, an indoor themepark with some rides and an arcade.
- If you have time and like Disney even a little bit, go to Tokyo DisneySea. It is an original theme park next to Tokyo Disneyland. It's built around the water with lots of bridges, hence the name. Instead of parades there are big presentations/shows on the water. Just walking around and admiring the style and architecture is worth it, but they also have some unique, cool rides, like Journey to the Center of the Earth. If you go, don't look up anything about the ride. Just go on it. Trust me.
- It might not be too late to get tickets for the Ghibli Museum. Check it out, if you like anything by Studio Ghibli! The surrounding Inokashira Park is also really nice.
Where to eat:
- My favorite place to get curry is Coco Ichibanya, which is a chain, so there's lots of them!
- If you like sushi, wake up early and go to Tsukiji, and then get in line for one of the restaurants nearby. It'll be the best, freshest sushi you've ever tasted.
- Tokyo usually has really good (maybe not authentic) Italian food. No joke. I've had some really tasty margherita pizza and weird pastas there. I'm a big fan of the chain Italian Tomato and their different pastas.
- Speaking of pizza, if you like pizza and beer, go here: DevilCraft Beer & Pizza
. Hey, you'll get tired of Japanese food every day!
- If you wanna eat cheaply, you can get tasty things at convenience stores like Family Mart or 7-11. Lots of different onigiri, yummy packaged stuff, and oden. Try it!
- There's a delicious dim sum place called Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豊) in Shinjuku at the top of the Takashimaya building. They have English menus.
- If you go to the aforementioned Takashimaya building in Shinjuku or Inokashira Park, get some gelato from Donatello's. So good.
Okay I have to get back to work but that should be pretty good for now.